Google tracks you even if you tell it not to

Google tracks your movements even if you’ve turned location history off

Report: Google tracks users even with location history turned off | TheHill

If you use Google's apps on your iOS device, like Google Maps or the search app, but have Location History turned off in an effort to prevent the company from keeping tabs on you, a new report has some bad news. AP's findings suggest that when you tell Google to turn off location tracking, it's only stopping the display of location markers in your apps. When Location History is turned off, "places you go are no longer stored", a Google support page says.

Google past year faced scrutiny over a similar issue when reports emerged that the tech giant had been collecting Android users' location data using the addresses of nearby cellphone towers.

Some examples of location-data logging the AP points to include Android's automatic weather updates that still track your general location, Google's search engine saving an exact location for each search query to your Google account, and even Google Maps itself snapshotting your location when you open the application. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. He says that "storing location data in violation of a user's preferences is wrong". If you think location tracking is off while Google Maps still shows you as a blue dot precisely where you are, I don't know what to tell you.

That last phrase appears to be referring to Web & App history, though Google wasn't clear on that. A spokesperson for the company said that it provides "clear descriptions" of all the Google tools that people use which may record users' locations.

If you don't want Google to store all of your location data, you'll need to turn off Location History as well as another setting called "Web and App Activity".

Now we come to the crux of the issue, which is disabling Web & App activity.

It's worth noting that even after you've turned these location features off, Google results still might use your search history to make a guess about where you are.

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Critics say Google's insistence on tracking its users' locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue.

The company continues to turn user data into profit with a program implemented in 2014, allowing advertisers to track online ads' effectiveness at driving foot traffic.

It's a good question and one the Associated Press was eager to look into with the help of computer science researchers at Princeton University. Well, it turns out Google may still be tracking your movements. That popup states that, when active, the setting "saves the things you do on Google sites, apps, and services ... and associated information, like location".

See, there you go. Now click Personal info & privacy My Activity, then click Activity controls in the lefthand toolbar.

While disabling "Web & App Activity" will stop Google from storing location markers, it also prevents Google from storing information generated by searches and other activity.

According to the AP, that text is technically true but somewhat misleading.

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